Book Review | Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

There’s just something about Rainbow Rowell’s writing that makes me so happy. I loved Eleanor and Park (can’t believe we’re getting a movie) and that in itself prompted me to pick up more works from the author.

Fangirl was not high on my list of Rowell books to read though. Fanfiction really isn’t my thing – I’ve read one fanfiction series and cringed hard – so I wasn’t really tempted to pick this up.

But I found a copy of Fangirl for a really good price at Half Price Books and thought “why not?” I couldn’t find any other Rainbow Rowell books while shopping, so I grabbed a copy of this and put it on the backburner for months.

And then I read (and disliked) The Spectacular Now and knew I needed to pick something that would quickly engross me. Fangirl had been sitting in my book cart since I purchased it and something about the cover called out to me.

I finally read it.

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan..

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

Levi + Cath

Since Cath’s relationships seem to be a forerunner of this novel, I wanted to talk about Cath and Levi first. From the moment we’re introduced to him, I suspected he would be a love interest. It was not an unexpected surprise that they ended up together to me.

Honestly, I felt like Levi was the perfect love interest for Cath from the moment we met him. He’s sweet and funny and so supportive of Cath. That she would believe he was dating her roommate was really funny to me because I thought it was so obvious he cared for Cath. I really, genuinely, loved Levi.

Cath + Wren

Ugh. Twins? Cool. Named Cather and Wren – WHY?

I didn’t mind the twin thing. Honestly, Cath and Wren might be my favorite twins since the Weasleys. I did mind that Wren was an absolute jerk to Cath for a large portion of the book. I get it, but I’m still mad about it.

Mental Health, Writing Relationships, and More!

As a young woman who has struggled with anxiety her whole life, it made me happy to read a book that centers around mental health – particularly mental health in college aged students. Mainly my anxiety started to manifest when I went away to college – change is especially difficult when managing my anxiety so reading about Cath and her issues with her mental health made her feel incredibly real to me.

Also, what the heck was the deal with Nick? I’m so confused about his character. He was developed and not important enough to get more about him, but I’m curious about why he is the way he is.

Regan was probably my favorite in how she dealt with Cath. Sometimes we all need an abrasive friend to get us out of our shells (Ryan, if you’re reading, you’re that friend!). I loved the dynamic between these two because the friendship seemed so unlikely – in the very best way.

Concluding Thoughts

Rainbow Rowell certainly is one of my favorite writers. Something about the way she writes helps the characters feel so real. She leaves me wanting more from the characters and I feel sad when her books are over and I know there’s no sequel. Honestly, I feel like as long as she publishes books, I’ll be over here devouring them. Her writing is so dang compelling to me.

In essence, I loved this. It was sweet, smart, and engaging. Relatable on a level I didn’t expect. Honestly, I am Cath, Cath is me.

I didn’t even mind the snippets of fanfiction…

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟💫

Let’s Chat!

What’s your favorite Rainbow Rowell book? How about your favorite character from Rowell’s work? Let me know in a comment.

So far my favorite has been Eleanor and Park with Park as my favorite character. Cath is a close second!

Book Review | Ghost by Jason Reynolds

One of the requirements for one of my graduate classes is to spend 10 hours observing in a library. My library of choice was a public library within my district. Obviously, as is the nature of librarians and book lovers, my sponsoring librarian and I got to talking about books. More specifically, we got to talking about award winning books. It’s really thanks to her that I picked up this one.

You see Ghost by Jason Reynolds is not a book I would normally pick up. Sure, I love middle grade and I adore children’s books, but I still have many years before my own kids will reach for a book of this level. This means, I still have many years before I would need to screen this book to see if it’s one I need in my personal library.

However, the way my sponsoring librarian talked about this book made me want to check it out that very day. Since I don’t have a library card for this area yet (bad, I know!) I asked my MIL to borrow it for me using her card. She was happy to oblige.

I read it in one day.

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Running. That’s all that Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But never for a track team. Nope, his game has always been ball. But when Ghost impulsively challenges an elite sprinter to a race — and wins — the Olympic medalist track coach sees he has something: crazy natural talent. Thing is, Ghost has something else: a lot of anger, and a past that he is trying to outrun. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed and meld with the team, or will his past finally catch up to him?

Why I Loved It

Look, putting aside the fact that I believe diversity is important in books, this one was so important to me because of the lessons it held. Ghost is a boy with a lot of anger and his past is definitely scary (even I, an adult woman, would be terrified if I experienced this boy’s trauma).

The lessons this book holds are important for my own children – judgment, shame, humility – all of these can be found within the pages of this book. It’s important for children to learn these lessons and I thought Reynolds did a great job capturing those lessons.

I unashamedly shed several tears at the end.

And of course the diversity is important. There is so much “wonder bread” in the world of literature that reading about these young, African American children was a breath of fresh air. I live for diverse characters and I live for narrative from the point of view of a person of color.

Does it make the cut?

When my sponsoring librarian told me about this book, I knew I’d read it, but I did not expect to want to immediately add it to my personal library. Without a doubt, hands down, I need this series on my middle grade shelves. It’s wonderful. I could sing praises of this book all day.

In fact, as of writing this, I’ve recommended it to at least 3 of my adult friends – especially to one of my adult friends who’s son is a middle school teacher.

In short, I can see why this book has won awards and exactly why the library I observed in has 15 copies.

Who should read it?

Do you have kids? Read it.

Do you work with kids? Read it.

Do you never want to have kids ever at any point in your life? Read it.

I cannot stress this enough – you should read this book. It’s wonderfully written. The characters, especially Coach, jump off the pages and make you reflect on your own childhood and the people who influenced your life for the better.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I seriously believe this is the stuff middle grade should be made of! It tackles tough topics and offers insight for children into the world their friends may be living in. I seriously, seriously recommend this to anyone.

Let’s chat!

Middle grade isn’t something I dive into too often. What’s your favorite middle grade series? Or if you can’t think of your favorite middle grade series – what’s your favorite middle grade book?

PS – stay tuned! Pretty soon, I’m going to be posting a video about my favorite middle grade books!

Book Review | Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Dumplin’ hasn’t been on my radar for long. It’s not really that talked about in the Booktune community – and I haven’t really seen it around bookstagram that much either. Maybe I’m not following the right people – those hidden Dumplin’ fans.

Even when the movie dropped on Netflix, I didn’t really see a lot of talk about it. To All the Boys was majorly hyped, but this one… not so much.

When I saw Jennifer Aniston was cast as the mom in the adaptation of Dumplin’, I knew I’d be watching it. But not before having read the book.

So with my Christmas gift card from Barnes and Noble, I bought my copy of Dumplin’.

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

Body Positivity

Look, I get that a lot of people don’t think this book was that body positive for a book about body positivity, but I don’t agree with those people. I think Willowdean is really positive in her own skin if we consider the fact that she is a sixteen year old girl. I’ve been slim my whole life, but I haven’t always felt comfortable in my own skin. This is what I think the main point Julie Murphy is trying to drive home. I mean even the MOST confident person in the world probably has struggled with body image issues. I don’t think this is not body positive.

Think about this for a second, Will’s issues don’t rise until her feelings for Bo surface. Who hasn’t been kissing someone and felt less than comfortable in their own skin. Look, maybe I’m oversharing, but I remember my first real kiss with a boy. I never felt so uncomfortable in my life even though I was enjoying myself.

The point I’m trying to make is that Julie Murphy wrote Will really well. She’s confident, but not always overly so. Everyone has issues with their bodies at some point in time.

Love Triangle

This book didn’t need a love triangle. Not at all. That being said, I thought Mitch was really just the sweetest. Obviously I was Team Bo because Will didn’t really even like Mitch.

Honestly, I thought this could’ve been handled better. Mitch was clearly meant to be a friend for Will and I wish that’s what would’ve happened. I didn’t like seeing him get his heart broken. I also didn’t like that his freaking best friend was the biggest asshole at the school. Whatever, the point stands. It didn’t need a love triangle. It made me feel really uncomfortable.

The Misfits

If there’s one thing I love in YA books, it’s a band of misfits coming together to overthrow the ideologies of the people around them. That’s what I loved most about this book.

First of all, Hannah is everything I expect to not fit into a small Texan town. Lesbian: check. Non-white: check. Some random defining feature that everyone makes fun of: check. Big attitude: double check. I liked Hannah simply because of her bluntness. She doesn’t need to fit in, but wants at least one friend. I was happy she found that in Will.

Millie is the happiest person in the book. She doesn’t let anyone hold her down (even her parents). What I liked about Millie is that she remains so positive throughout the book. She’s a close second in the group of misfits.

Amanda is seriously hilarious. Every single time she calls Bo “Peachbutt” I laughed out loud. It was seriously the best. As Millie’s best friend, she’s perfect.

The Friendship (& Rift)

Ellen and Will’s friendship being forged on Dolly Parton was a highlight of this book for me. I love Dolly, but not quite like these girls. Sure, I’ve been known to belt “Jolene” off key, but I don’t know every word to every Dolly song. I don’t worship her. But I loved this aspect of the book. It made me so happy.

The rift in the friendship could easily have been avoided if these two young ladies HAD COMMUNICATED. We don’t ask for much, but like, please explain to each other why you’re mad so we can move on and not waste time on mean girls!

Concluding Thoughts

I finished Dumplin’ on a Thursday and then spent Saturday morning watching the film. It was cute and not quite on par with the book, but good in its own right. I definitely recommend picking up the book before hitting up the movie because of the details lacking in the film.

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Yeah that’s right. This one was a solid 5 for me. It made me feel so happy while reading it and I had a hard time putting it down. The characters were so well developed and the storyline captured me. My main issue was with the ending…

Have you ever participated in a beauty pageant before? I haven’t, but I’ve watched a male pageant live before (it was the best!).

One more question: Should I pick up Puddin’? I haven’t read the synopsis so I don’t know if it will give me more of what happens after the pageant or not.